Malaysia drops seven spots in anti-graft ladder

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Source: The Malaysian Insight

Transparency International-Malaysia chairman Akhbar Satar says Malaysia’s ranking is likely to fall in the next few years until major corruption scandals are resolved. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Kamal Ariffin, February 22, 2018.

FAILURE to resolve major corruption scandals, like 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), Tabung Haji and Felda, is one of the main reasons Malaysia’s ranking fell in a global corruption index, an international anti-graft group said today.

“These scandals affected our score,” said Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) chairman Akhbar Satar at the launch of the Corruption Perceptions Index in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

Until these scandals are resolved satisfactorily, Akhbar said, Malaysia’s ranking is likely to further fall in the next few years.

Malaysia fell to No. 62 in the index last year, down seven spots from 2016, marking its lowest position since the index began in 1995.

The CPI ranks 180 countries by perceived levels of public sector corruption, according experts and business people. It uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

Malaysia, since its 2014 score of 52, has been dropping every year, passing the halfway point in 2016 (49) and reaching 47 in 2017.

“We are at the same spot as Cuba. We should be better than them,” said Akhbar.

He said if it was not for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)’s aggressive arrests over the past few years, Malaysia’s ranking could have slipped further.

He added that in the case of 1MDB, the MACC has appealed to the Attorney-General to press charges: “Unfortunately the attorney-general said there was no case.”

Stopping short of calling for the attorney-general to resign or be replaced, Akhbar said the public must keep the pressure on the government to resolve the 1MDB scandal satisfactorily.

He said Malaysia must also address other factors that lowered its score in the index, such as restrictions on media freedom, the lack of access to information on and transparency in government procurement, and a flawed whistle-blowing policy, among others.

“Whistleblowers who report corruption to the media are not protected (by the law) and can be charged. This needs to change if we are serious about fighting corruption,” said Akhtar.

Two whistleblowers, Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli and former bank clerk Johari Mohamad, were recently sentenced to 30 months’ jail for violating a banking law to expose the National Feedlot Corp scandal.

Akhtar said it is wrong for the government to give out contracts to incompetent cronies and relatives, rather than based on merit.

He said civil servants and the public cannot bank on the MACC alone, which has about 1,600 investigation officers, to fight graft.

“As a government servant, you may not be able to prevent politicians who try to interfere with you, but you can exercise your right to ignore them.

“Politicians are smart. They won’t give you ‘instructions’ in writing. When the MACC investigates, you’ll be investigated. The politician will (wash their hands off the matter),” said Akhbar.

When asked what could Malaysians do to fight against graft in the next elections, he said: “It’s up to the public, whether you want change or not.

“You are smart. Most of them (the politicians) are corrupt, choose the least corrupt.” – February 22, 2018.